Rigney in 1953.
|Infielder / Manager|
January 29, 1918|
Died: February 20, 2001
Walnut Creek, California
|April 16, 1946, for the New York Giants|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 12, 1953, for the New York Giants|
|Runs batted in||212|
|Career highlights and awards|
William Joseph Rigney (January 29, 1918 – February 20, 2001) was an American infielder and manager in Major League Baseball. A 26-year Major League veteran, Rigney played for the New York Giants from 1946 to 1953, then fashioned an 18-year career as a manager (1956–72; 1976) with the Giants, Los Angeles/California Angels and Minnesota Twins. The Bay Area native was the last manager of the Giants in New York (1957), and their first in San Francisco (1958). Three years later, Rigney became the first manager in Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim franchise history.
New York Giants' infielder
Born in Alameda, California, Rigney batted and threw right-handed, stood 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall and weighed 178 pounds (81 kg). He began his professional baseball career in 1938 when he signed with the unaffiliated Oakland Oaks of the top-level Pacific Coast League. After seasoning in the Class B Western International League, Rigney played the full seasons of 1941–1942 with the Oaks, then performed World War II service in the United States Coast Guard from 1943–1945.
Acquired by the Giants during the war, he was a 28-year-old rookie in 1946 and played third base, shortstop and second base during his MLB career—appearing in over 100 games played in each of his first four MLB seasons. His most productive season came in 1947, when he reached career highs in home runs (17), RBI (59), runs (84), hits (142), doubles (24) and games played (130). He was the Giants' regular second baseman in 1948, and was selected to the National League All-Star team, where he drew a base on balls off Joe Coleman in his only plate appearance. As a utility infielder, Rigney was a member of the 1951 NL champion Giants, and he appeared in four games of the 1951 World Series, collecting one hit in four at bats (a single off Vic Raschi), with an RBI, as a pinch hitter.
As a big-leaguer, Rigney was a .259 career hitter with 510 hits, 41 home runs and 212 runs batted in in 654 games.
Manager of three MLB clubs
Following his MLB playing career, Rigney was named manager of the Giants' top farm club, the Triple-A Minneapolis Millers, in 1954–1955, then was promoted to skipper of the Giants in 1956, succeeding future Baseball Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher. Despite the presence of Hall of Fame center fielder Willie Mays, the Giants' final two seasons in Upper Manhattan, 1956 and 1957, were dismal: they lost 87 and 85 games, respectively, finished in sixth place in the eight-team National League both years, and their attendance fell below 700,000.
But upon their move to San Francisco in 1958—and rejuvenated by young players such as Orlando Cepeda, Jim Davenport, Felipe Alou, and, later, Willie McCovey—the Giants returned to the first division and contended for the NL pennant in 1959. The 1960 Giants moved into new Candlestick Park and were expected to again contend for the league title. The club got off the mark quickly, winning 20 of its first 29 games. But then the Giants stumbled, losing 16 of their next 29, and were coming off a three-game series sweep at home by the eventual world champion Pittsburgh Pirates when, on June 17, Rigney was fired. At 33–25, the club was in second place, four games behind Pittsburgh, when Rigney was dismissed. Tom Sheehan, the veteran scout who replaced Rigney, fared even more poorly, however, going only 46–50 as the Giants plummeted into fifth place by season's end.
Rigney was not unemployed for long. He became the first skipper in the history of the expansion Los Angeles Angels of the American League in 1961. Gene Autry and Robert O. Reynolds, the Angels' owners, originally wanted to hire another future Hall of Fame manager, Casey Stengel, a resident of nearby Glendale who had been fired by the New York Yankees after the 1960 World Series. But Stengel declined all managerial offers and spent 1961 in temporary retirement. Ironically, Rigney's old mentor, Durocher, was interested in returning to baseball as manager of the Angels—but Autry and Reynolds chose Rigney instead.
While the Angels' maiden edition lost 91 games and finished eighth in the ten-team AL, the 1962 team, paced by young pitchers Dean Chance and Bo Belinsky, stunned baseball by finishing in third place with an 86–76 record during their second season of existence. As a result, Rigney was named Manager of the Year by The Sporting News.
During Rigney's eight full years with the Angels, the club played in three home ballparks—Wrigley Field (Los Angeles), Dodger Stadium and Anaheim Stadium—and also compiled winning records in 1964 and 1967. But 1969, Rigney's ninth season, proved catastrophic. The Angels started the year 11–28 and were mired in a ten-game losing streak when Rigney was fired on May 27 and succeeded by Lefty Phillips. Later in 1969, Rigney joined the San Francisco Giants' radio broadcast team to close out the season; coincidentally, KSFO, the Giants flagship station, was then owned by Autry and Reynolds.
Returning to the field (and to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis–St. Paul) the next year, Rigney succeeded Billy Martin as manager of the Minnesota Twins in 1970, leading them to 98 victories and the 1970 American League West Division championship. But the Twins fell in three straight games to the eventual world champion Baltimore Orioles in the 1970 American League Championship Series, then won only 74 games in 1971. The Twins